How to make hypertufa?

Hypertufa Pots

Make beautiful garden containers that will last for years with this wonderful hypertufa technique. The term “hypertufa” refers to a type of artificial stone, and is a conglomerate of the words “tufa,” a natural volcanic rock, and “hyper,” a prefix meaning excessively or extremely; hypertufa are extremely rock-like containers.

You can use almost anything that has an interesting shape for a mold, such as an old tub, bin, or nursery pot. Keep in mind that this mixture is an approximation, and not an exact science — you can play around with the measurements.

This recipe will make really light pots; if you want heavier, sturdier pots, simply add more cement to the mixture.

Tools and Materials

  • Rubber gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Perlite
  • Peat moss
  • Portland cement
  • Cement pigment (optional)
  • Acrylic fibers (if making larger-size pot)
  • Plastic tub
  • Water
  • Spray cooking oil
  • Mold (Martha used a nursery pot)
  • Small wooden dowel (optional)
  • Plastic bags
  • Wire brush or sandpaper
  • Buttermilk (optional)

Hypertufa Pots How-To

1. Wearing rubber gloves and a dust mask to avoid breathing cement dust, mix 3 parts perlite, 3 parts peat moss, and 2 parts Portland cement in a plastic tub. If desired, add cement pigment for color. If making a large pot, add acrylic fibers for strength.

2. Add water to tub, a bit at a time, until the mixture has the consistency of moist cottage cheese.

3. Spray inside of mold with cooking oil. Push a handful of wet hypertufa mixture firmly against the bottom of the mold. Repeat until you have made a bottom base that is approximately 1 inch thick. Push handfuls of wet hypertufa mixture firmly against the sides of container approximately 3/4 inches in thickness. Continue until rim of mold is reached. Press bottom and sides firmly to remove air pockets.

4. Create drainage hole by pushing finger or small dowell through the bottom of mold so that it penetrates the hypertufa mixture.

5. Cover with plastic bag, let dry for about 48 hours.

6. Take off plastic bag and remove pot from mold (pot with be slightly wet). Using a wire brush or sandpaper sponge, rough up the surface of the hypertufa for a more rustic appearance. Let sit for 2 to 3 weeks to dry completely.

7. If desired, coat pot with buttermilk and moss; the moss will grow around the pot.

Resources

Peat moss, perlite, and Portland cement are available at The Home Depot or your local hardware store or garden center. Acrylic fibers can be found at craft, hardware, and building supply stores.

Planting Succulents in Hypertufa Pots

Hypertufa pots are extremely versatile; many plants will grow well in them, including all types of succulents. Completely weatherproof, these pots work indoors or out and can freeze and thaw naturally as a result of their porous nature.

When planting, be sure to cover the drainage hole with a pottery shard to prevent soil from washing away. Half-fill container with potting soil suitable for succulents, such as Scotts Cactus Mix, or make your own with 3 parts high-quality soil-free potting soil, 1 part coarse sand, and 1 part perlite.

Arrange succulents on top of soil. Once happy with their placement, fill in around the root balls with potting mix, firming it down — the base of the plants and the top of the soil should be 1/2 to 1 inch below the container rim; gently water. Top soil with pebbles or crushed stones for a neat finished appearance, if desired.

Hypertufa, the Look of Carved Stone

Do you like the looks of carved stone planters? Then hypertufa is for you. Here is my recipe and instructions on how to make your own unique trough, bowl, or box.

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Protective Clothing: While working with hypertufa ingredients, wear a dust mask, sturdy rubber gloves and protective eye goggles when measuring and mixing the dry ingredients. Once you’ve added the water to your mix and have it mixed up a bit you can remove the goggles and dust mask. Cement and perlite dust is toxic and you don’t want to breathe it in. Work in a well ventilated area and wear old clothes (if you’re messy, like me).

Recipe: The mix I use for my hypertufa is one part Portland cement, 1½ parts sifted peat moss and 1½ parts perlite. This is the recipe I use most for pots. I don’t measure the water, just pour and mix it in slowly until when I squeeze a handful it just sticks together, not wet or soggy. You don’t want to add too much water because that weakens your finished product. Another recipe which will make it a bit stronger is 1 part each Portland cement, play sand, sifted peat moss and perlite. The sand will make it a little heavier, but stronger.

Instructions: You can use just about anything you want for a mold. Just be sure it has smooth sides because if there are ridges in your mold you won’t be able to slide your pot out. Also make sure the top of your container is not narrower than the bottom or the pot won’t come out.

I like to make my pots inside the containers I use for molds but you can also turn something upside down and make your pot over the outside of the container. For me it’s easier to be able to see how thick the sides of my pot are if I use the inside. Some people also use one container inside of another and pack the tufa between the two containers. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

You’ll need to prepare your mold prior to use. Hypertufa will stick to unprepared surfaces and you won’t be able to unmold your pot. I generally use stiff plastic things for molds. You want something stiff so the sides don’t flex during contruction or your pot will crack. I spray the inside of my mold with Pam cooking spray, then line it with a plastic bag. Dry cleaner bags work great as do grocery bags, garbage bags, etc. If there is printing on the bag place it facing the mold, not your hypertufa mix.

As you’re building your pot the sides and bottom should be at least 1″ thick for strength. The bigger the pot, the thicker it needs to be. Pack your tufa in the mold as firmly as you can, I mean really push down hard. If not, it will just crumble when you unmold it. If you use a mold with corners make the pot thicker in the corners for strength.Remember to put a drainage hole in the bottom. I do that by sticking a wooden dowel or piece of PVC pipe through the bottom as I’m building it. You can pull it out when you unmold it. Clean all your tools immediately or the cement will harden on them. Never, ever pour “used” water from this down a drain or you’ll cement the drain shut!

Your pot has to remain in your mold for 24-48 house before you try to remove it. The larger the pot, the longer it needs to sit. After you’re finished putting your tufa in the mold, put the entire thing in a large garbage bag and seal it tightly for 24-48 hours. Try to move it as little as possible during this time to prevent cracking.

To unmold, gently turn the mold over and your pot should slide out. One reason for the plastic bag in the mold is so that if it sticks you can gently tug on the plastic to get air in between the pot and the mold to release it. Tufa is extremely fragile at this point! If you bump or drop it, it will shatter.

You may notice that there are lines in your pot from the plastic bag. Now is when you can remove those and/or roughen up your pot to make it look more rugged. I use a wire brush for that. You can also use a large file to soften the edges or corners. Be gentle or you can accidentally take a chunk out of your pot! And wear your protective gear during this process too. Now it’s time for the rest of the cure.

Curing: Because of the temperatures here in Wisconsin, it’s not safe for me to start making tufa/cement projects until the end of May or early June. Curing needs to be done at a minium of 50° F. When you cure tufa you can do it a couple of ways. After you unmold it, it needs to remain moist or wet to cure properly. You can stick it in a sealed plastic bag (garbage bags work great) out of direct sunlight and then mist it every day; or just stick the piece in water. I use big Rubbermaid containers (or something similar), then I don’t have to spend the time misting it. I change the water every couple of days because it gets yucky (real technical term).

There are lots of opinions about how long to cure the pots before planting in them – anywhere from a few days to 28 days. I personally cure them for 28 days in a waterbath. It “officially” takes concrete 28 days to cure well (but I guess it actually keeps curing just about forever) and I prefer being on the safe side. I know a lot of people only cure for a few days and seem to have good results, so I guess it’s up to you. It’s hard to wait 28 days – especially when you first get started!

In the early part of the 20th century, horticulturists discovered a natural porous rock called tufa. Due to its high limestone content, Alpine plants grew very well in tufa containers with good drainage. Through the years, tufa became scarce and more expensive giving birth to the hypertufa pot.

Hypertufa appears as an artificial form of rock used to create lightweight, sturdy, attractive stone pots, hypertufa planters and ornaments for your garden and home. One can easily make hypertufa recipes with Portland cement and a few other ingredients from a local garden center.

Cheap and simple to make, hypertufa provides a creative outlet for gardeners who wish to personalize their gardening experience. Containers made with hypertufa can resist all types of harsh, weather conditions and can last for decades.

Uses For Hypertufa In The Garden

This artificial stone can be used to create garden accessories such as:

  • Stepping Stones
  • Sculptures
  • Birdbaths
  • Planters
  • Pots

How To Make Hypertufa?

A basic hypertufa recipe involves combining and mixing equal parts of the following ingredients:

  • Sphagnum Moss or Spaghnum Peat Moss or Sawdust or Coconut Coir
  • Vermiculite or Perlite or Sand
  • Portland Cement

Your choice in materials depends on their availability, your preferences and the results you desire. Practice, plus experimentation with trial and error will help you choose the ingredients that work best for you.

Related Reading: Check out this Hypertufa Guide

Once you combine the dry ingredients in a large plastic tub, gradually add water to create a fairly dry mud. Be sure to stir constantly with a small garden rake or your gloved hands as you add the water.

Exactly How Much Water Do I Need In A Hypertufa Mix?

No exact amount of water can be given. It should be a little less than, rather than equal to, the volume of the dry ingredients. Add a little amount of water after another until it meets the desired consistency.

Some people like their hypertufa to be of cottage cheese consistency while others prefer wet.

Experiment with your recipe to see what works best in your climate. Humidity can affect the performance of the hypertufa mix.

Watch the video below. It shows how to prepare a basic hypertufa mix for a simple planter.

In the video, notice how the gentleman keeps precise measurements except for the water. He also uses a dry mix of hypertufa.

Other gardeners vary greatly in their techniques and recipes used. This goes to show how working with hypertufa can become a very personalized and easy experience.

How Long Does It Take for The Hypertufa To Dry?

Once you have created your object, you must set it aside for a few days for the initial curing.

Cover it with plastic to keep it damp for a couple of days. During this time, it will harden enough to remove from the mold for any additional work to be done.

How To Remove The Hypertufa Mold?

If done correctly, removing the object from mold is easy. Some people spray the mold with cooking spray. Meanwhile, others would say it is not necessary.

Lining your mold with a plastic bag will prevent your homemade hypertufa from sticking.

If some plastic sticks in the crevices of your creation, you can simply burn it off using a lighter or matches. Please do this in a fire-safe and well-ventilated area.

To ensure your hypertufa slips easily from the mold, do not over-pack around curved objects in the center of the mold.

If you use a tapered object such as a jar, define the central opening of your container and leave enough room around the top to allow it to be freed once it dries. See the “Pickle Jar” video below as an example of this situation.

Most likely, you will have trouble removing a highly-textured object from the mold. For example: If you use a wicker basket, you will probably have to destroy it to remove it.

Tidy Up Your Hypertufa

Once removed from the mold, you can smooth the object. Carve it using a putty knife or trowel edge, brush it to give it a rough appearance, and carve patterns into it using a sharp object.

Some people rinse their homemade hypertufa with a fine spray from the garden hose. This will provide a uniform, engraved appearance over the entire surface.

Give Your Container Some Time To Cure

After finishing the surface of your hypertufa container, set it aside in a cool place covered with plastic for about a week. Then, set it uncovered outside in the shady spot for a couple of weeks to cure even further.

How Strong Are Hypertufa Pots?

Hypertufa can stand up to high heat, freezing temperatures, rain, wind, and snow. However, the strength of your creation will depend upon how well you constructed it.

While on the process of completing your DIY Hypertufa, be sure to make it thick enough. Use the length of your thumb as a guideline when measuring the thickness of the walls of your containers and surfaces of the objects.

If you mix the hypertufa correctly, construct your creation well and allow plenty of time for it to cure. Afterward, you will have an object that will withstand the outdoor elements for decades.

Why Hypertufa Containers Fare Better Than Plastic or Concrete Containers?

Hypertufa beats plastic because of its “breathable” quality. The addition of vermiculite, perlite, or sand to the mixture helps to absorb excess water and provides your plant roots with good ventilation.

You can also customize drainage by choosing the number and size of drain holes in each planter. Just poke holes in the bottom of your container using your finger, a pencil, or a dowel while still wet.

This versatile material also beats concrete because of its lighter weight. It also provides better oxygenation for plant roots. In terms of a DIY project, hypertufa costs lesser and makes everything easier than a concrete.

What Can You Use As A Mold?

Some people build very precise molds as shown in the first video. Others use objects such as laundry baskets with wet towels draped over them to create exciting and interesting works of abstract design.

Seventy-eight-year-old Helen Wyatt, known as the hypertufa Grandma Moses of Georgia, uses all manner of objects found around her house as molds for hypertufa pots, birdbaths, birdhouses, fairy houses and more.

In her interesting and entertaining videos, she shows everyone what to do and what not to do when creating useful, folksy hypertufa objects of art.

Watch how she makes a hypertufa bird bath from a very old bowl.

When watching her video, you’ll notice she uses a very wet mixture. Also, she chooses to use sand or sawdust as ingredients. This works out very well for her and it may also work for everyone.

Her enthusiastic and creative approach allows her to make the most out of the material she has on hand. She makes sure everything she does even at outdoors carries her own personal touch.

Hypertufa Sculpting

Some gardeners tend to be fonder of landscaping and artistry than creating containers. Objects such as rocks and even very large sculptures can be created using a framework of chicken wire stuffed with various materials and objects.

The next video will show how lightweight, attractive, and uniform rocks can be created using plastic bottles. Moreover, you will also see how chicken wire gets used as in the framework.

By reusing them, plastic bottles can be kept out of the landfills, waterways, and oceans. This also serves as an excellent way to create attractive and durable borders for your flower beds, raised bed gardens and pathways.

Artistic gardeners can create large hypertufa sculptures by making a chicken wire framework. In addition, they stuff it with newspaper or cardboard for a better look.

This framework will purposely hold the hypertufa securely in place so the sculpture will be strong and durable. This type of creation must be done over a period of several days and then allowed to cure over a long period. It usually turns out as a very sturdy and attractive hypertufa.

Make A Good Impression!

Create impressions on the surface of your objects by lining the molds with a material such as:

  • Wrinkled Plastic
  • Bubble wrap
  • Leaves
  • Fabric

Use your imagination to find ways on granting texture, interest, and appeal to your creation. Once you become a hypertufa expert, you will be able to enhance the appearance of your creations by adding unusual ingredients to your mixture, such as:

  • Polymer Fibers
  • Liquid Acrylic
  • Crushed Rock
  • Concrete Dye
  • Fiberglass
  • Gravel

Results often depend upon your skill and ambient condition. Experiment with various ingredients and recipes until you hit upon the one that works best for you.

You can also paint your creations using acrylic paint or special concrete paint. Decorate it using various objects and hot glue. You can even add live moss to your damp hypertufa for a living and growing masterpiece.

Over at Urban Trail Gardens owner Ron Harvey shows you the simple method to make your own lightweight containers. The pots can stay outside all year, he’s been using for over 7 years!

Safety In Crafting A Hypertufa Planter

Always wear a dust mask while working with loose and dusty ingredients. This will prevent you from inhaling irritating particles. You should also protect your eyes with safety glasses.

B very careful about coming into physical contact with Portland cement because it can burn your skin.

Always wear plastic or rubber gloves to protect your skin. If some of the material splashes onto your skin, rinse it off immediately.

Always wear old clothes to work with hypertufa. It will ruin your clothing and any garment it meets.

Who Should Craft Hypertufa?

Hypertufa crafting serves as a fun hobby for anyone. Adults may enjoy the activity by seeing their craftsmanship and feeling the sense of accomplishment afterward.

Working with hypertufa may not be suitable for very small children due to the Portland cement. However, with supervision and wearing of proper safety gears, older children and teenagers can enjoy this activity.

Making planters and objects of art with hypertufa could be a wonderful project for groups such as:

  • Gardening Clubs
  • Scouting Groups
  • Church Groups
  • Senior Groups

With hypertufa, you can create objects of art to give as gifts on holidays and special occasions. This also opens the opportunity for you to express your own creativity by designing your garden setting using concrete.

From time to time, the greenhouse team at Denver Botanic Gardens will build hypertufa troughs. These troughs are a great addition to a garden, especially for showcasing some of the rock garden plants, native wildflowers, and cacti that might otherwise be lost in a larger landscape. We sell our planted troughs at the Spring and Fall Plant Sales and occasionally throughout the season at the Shop at the Gardens. However, if you are interested in making your own hypertufa troughs, I would like to share with you our process and recipe for making a simple hypertufa trough.

Supplies

For this project, you will need the following supplies:

  • Portland cement (either white or gray–if you are using a dye, the color of the cement will effect the dye)
  • Vermiculite
  • Sphagnum peat moss
  • Concrete dye
  • Synthetic concrete reinforcement fibers
  • A plastic mold, such as a large bowl, a cat litter tray or a dish pan
  • 1mm or thicker plastic sheeting (this can be a thick trash bag, a painting drop cloth, etc.)
  • Water

Where to get supplies

In the Denver area, most of these supplies are readily available. The peat moss and vermiculite can be found at most garden supply centers or at a large retail horticulture products supplier. The Portland cement, concrete dye, and synthetic reinforcement fibers can be found at any specialty concrete supply store.

Supplies prep

The task that will take you the longest in your trough making endeavor is the materials prep. The cement and vermiculite can be used as is. It is advised that the peat moss be sieved to remove large particulates and to provide a smaller grain material. However, if your goal is a coarser appearance, the sieving is not necessary.

The materials that take the most prep time are the synthetic fibers. When they are purchased, the fibers have the appearance of clumps of white strings. The fibers are added for stability and need to be consistent throughout the batch. To obtain this consistency, the fibers need to be ‘fluffed’ before they can be added to the mixture. This can be done by rubbing the fibers between your fingers until they take on the appearance of a pile of cat hair. It can be quite time consuming, but definitely worth the effort.

Tools

  • Dust mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Wire brush
  • Propane torch
  • A bucket or container for measuring your dry ingredients
  • Wheelbarrow or suitable container for mixing the hypertufa

Mixing the hypertufa

Once you have obtained and prepped your materials, it is time to mix the dry ingredients. It is advisable to always wear a dust mask and rubber gloves when working with Portland cement. We have experimented with several recipes; the following recipe is our favorite for strength and appearance:

  • 2 parts Portland cement
  • 3 parts vermiculite
  • 3 parts peat moss
  • 1-2 cups of dye (depending on the color you are hoping to achieve)
  • 3-4 cups of ‘fluffed’ synthetic fibers (this will translate to about a 1/4 cup unfluffed fibers). These fibers will not be added to the dry mixture; rather, they will be mixed in as you are adding water.

The size of the trough (or troughs) you are hoping to obtain will determine the amount of hypertufa you mix. If your goal is to make one small trough, the bucket you are using to measure out your ‘parts’ should reflect this size.

Once you have mixed up your dry ingredients in the wheelbarrow/mixing container, it is time to add water. It is important to only add a little bit of water at a time; if your mixture becomes too wet, the end result will not resemble hypertufa.

If you have a partner to aid in this process, the extra set of hands will be very helpful. While one person is using a shovel to turn the mixture, the other person can be incrementally adding water and synthetic fibers.

This is also a good time to make any adjustments to the color of the mixture by adding more dye, if necessary. The desired result is a mixture that when squeezed in your hand both holds its shape and releases just a few drops of water. If you squeeze the mixture and it feels squishy or you can visibly see a lot of water forcing out, you have added too much water.

Filling the forms

Now that your mixture is ready to go, it is time to start making the trough by adding the mixture to the form (the plastic container) that you have chosen. As you will have to cover the finished project later with the plastic sheeting, it is a good idea to lay the sheeting down before you begin the molding process. As this is also a bit of a messy project, the sheeting will protect whatever surface you are working on.

In general, regardless of the size of your trough, you want the walls and bottom to be between 1 ½-2 inches thick. Begin by adding shovelfuls of mixture to your form. This mixture needs to be compacted (to form the base) either by pushing with your hands or using a block of wood to push it down. If you do not compact the hypertufa, as it dries it will form holes in the trough and will generally lose stability.

As you are forming the base, start working your way of the side walls of the form. If the walls of your form are somewhat steep, it may be difficult to compact the mixture against the form. If this is the case, you can try compacting the mixture in your hands and then apply it to the inside of the form.

As you continue to build the walls of the trough, remember to keep the thickness consistent. It is very important that you make a drain hole in the bottom of your trough. If the trough is larger, you may want to make two or three holes. This is the best time to make the hole; if you forget, it will be necessary to drill it out once the trough has dried.

Curing

Once you have molded the hypertufa in to the form and you are happy with the way it looks, it is time to begin the curing process. This is a two stage process; the first part lasts between 24-48 hours and the longer curing should take about four weeks.

Immediately after finishing the molding process, you will cover the trough with the plastic sheeting. Between 24 and 48 hours you will remove the trough from the form and leave it under the plastic sheeting. When to remove the trough is determined by the hardness of the mixture. If you can scratch it with your fingernail, it probably needs about 12-20 more hours. If you need a screwdriver to scratch the surface, this is about the right hardness. In general, smaller troughs take longer to cure than larger ones.

To get the desired appearance for your trough, this is the time when you would use the wire brush to rough up the outer surfaces of your trough. Most likely the plastic form will have left the trough looking shiny and smooth. Typically, hypertufa troughs have a rough and more weathered appearance. The wire brush will help you alter the texture to your liking.

To make the trough as strong as possible, the longer curing method is recommended. Once you have removed the trough from its form and altered the texture, place the trough back under the plastic and keep it at room temperature for four weeks. You will want to occasionally check the trough to make sure it is not drying out. If it feels dry, moisten it with water.

After the curing process, if all goes well, you are ready to plant your trough! Remember to use well-draining soils and chose plants that are suitable for troughs.

Hypertufa How To – How To Make Hypertufa Containers For Gardens

If you suffer from sticker shock when you look at hypertufa pots at the garden center, why not make your own? It’s easy and incredibly inexpensive, but takes quite a bit of time. Hypertufa pots need to cure for a month or more before you plant in them, so start your hypertufa projects in winter if you want them ready for spring planting.

What is Hypertufa?

Hypertufa is a lightweight, porous material used in craft projects. It is made from a mixture of peat moss; Portland cement and either sand, vermiculite, or perlite. After mixing the ingredients together, they are molded into shape and allowed to dry.

Hypertufa projects are limited only by your imagination. Garden containers, ornaments and statuary are just a few of the items you can fashion from hypertufa. Check flea markets and thrift stores for inexpensive items to use as molds and let your imagination run wild.

The durability of hypertufa containers

depends on the ingredients you use. Those made with sand can last 20 years or more, but they are quite heavy. If you substitute with perlite, the container will be much lighter, but you will probably only get 10 years of use out of it. Plant roots can push their way into cracks and crevices in the container, eventually causing them to break apart.

Hypertufa How To

Before you begin, assemble the supplies you will need. Here are the essentials necessary for use in most hypertufa projects:

  • Large container for mixing the hypertufa
  • Spade or trowel
  • Mold
  • Plastic sheeting for lining the mold
  • Dust mask
  • Rubber gloves
  • Tamping stick
  • Wire brush
  • Water container
  • Hypertufa ingredients

How to Make Hypertufa

Once your supplies are ready, you will need to know how to make hypertufa containers and other objects. While there are a number of recipes available online and in print, here is a basic hypertufa recipe suitable for the beginner:

  • 2 parts Portland cement
  • 3 parts sand, vermiculite or perlite
  • 3 parts peat moss

Moisten the peat moss with water and then thoroughly mix the three ingredients using a spade or trowel. There should be no lumps.

Gradually add water, working the mix after each addition. When ready, the hypertufa should have the consistency of cookie dough and hold its shape when you squeeze it. Wet, sloppy mix won’t hold its shape in the mold.

Line the mold with plastic sheeting and place a 2- to 3-inch layer of hypertufa mixture in the bottom of the mold. Line the sides of the mold with a 1- to 2-inch layer of mix. Tamp it in place to remove air pockets.

Allow your project to dry in the mold for two to five days. After removing it from the mold, allow an additional month of curing time before using your container.

Hypertufa Guide

A hypertufa is an artificial rock that is constructed from numerous aggregates that is merged together using Portland cement. Since they are rather porous and lightweight, they are typically made as garden decorations, usually as plant containers. A hypertufa is an substitute for tufa, a gradually precipitated limestone deposited from springs.
There are various recipes for building hypertufas, although the standard formula is that it is one part cement for every three parts aggregate. For the most fundamental recipe, the main ingredients are 1 part Portland cement, 1½ parts peat moss, and 1½ parts perlite. Portland cement comes in two colors: gray or white. Gray is alright for most projects; on the other hand pick white if you want a granite look to the end result or if you wish to use colorants. Peat moss is included in the recipe as when it decays, it will leave openings and crevices that imitates the characteristic of a true tufa rock. At the same time perlite is the substance that makes a hypertufa lightweight.
As an alternative to perlite, you can substitute it with vermiculite, however, you might have a harder time finding one. Vermiculite will bring a bit more weight to your hypertufa. It also provides a glowing touch to your hypertufa. The proportion of materials is similar with the first recipe.
Occasionally you may want to create a stronger, heavier hypertufa. You can do this by adding sand to your mix. Be aware that the kind of sand will affect the texture and color of the end result of your project. For the proportion of this recipe, make use of an equal ratio for all the materials. One more component which can be included to fortify your hypertufa is fiber mesh. For this recipe you have to make use of 2 parts of Portland cement, 1/2 part coarse sand, 1 1/2 parts peat moss, 2 parts perlite, and just a tiny amount of nylon fiber mesh.
Peat moss may also be replaced with coir, a processed coconut fiber. The recipe for this variation is 2 parts coir, 1½ parts perlite, and 2 parts portland cement. Keep in mind that coir will not decay as quickly as peat moss and therefore this recipe might not look like a real tufa rock, in contrast to those created using the latter.
You can also use hypertufa as a mortar, to join genuine or faux rocks. For this purpose, you should have clay soil, builders sand, and acrylic fortifying base. Black potting soil could also be used instead of peat moss. The recipe is 1/2 part peat moss or black potting soil, 2 parts builders sand, 1 part Portland cement, and the acrylic fortifying additive.
As a final note, the key to every formula is the appropriate adding of water. Add water slowly until you attain the required consistency of your mix. You can always put more water anyway if you figure out that it is not enough.

How to make a Hypertufa

A what?? A Hypertufa! What’s a Hypertufa?

A hypertufa is a container that looks like stone or concrete but weighs much less and can be created and molded into different shapes and sizes. These unique containers are relatively easy to make and can become quite the conversation piece in your garden or on a patio or deck. They are also great additions to a rock garden.

How Do I Make a Hypertufa

Get your mom or dad to help you with this project!

You will need the following supplies:

  1. A large tub for mixing the ingredients
  2. A measuring container
  3. Synthetic concrete reinforcing fibers (fibermesh) to add strength
  4. Plastic drop cloth or other piece of plastic
  5. Some type of plastic or silicone container to use as a mold for your hypertufa
  6. Rubber gloves, protective eye wear, and a dust mask

The recipe:

• 1 part Portland cement
• 1 ½ part sphagnum peat moss
• 1 ½ part perlite

The Procedure:

Mix the above ingredients together and add a few handfuls of concrete reinforcing fibers to each batch. Be sure to wear the protective eye wear and dust mask.

Add water to the mix a little at a time and mix with a trowel. Add enough water so that only a few drops are released when you squeeze the mix and it still holds its shape. Do not add too much water or your mix will be too runny.

Place your container upside down on the plastic drop cloth and mold the mix around the container. Pack the mix firmly to a depth of 1-2 inches. Be sure to make the bottom flat and don’t forget to create a drainage hole in the bottom by poking a hole with your finger.

Wrap the plastic up and around your hypertufa and let it harden for a day.

After a day, uncover the hypertufa, turn it over and remove the plastic container you used for the mold. Use a stiff wire brush to create a natural rough look.

Re-cover the hypertufa and let it harden for an additional 2-3 days.

Uncover and expose the hypertufa to the sun and rain for a few weeks to leach out excess lime. Hose it down periodically if you don’t get rain.

Your hypertufa is now ready to plant. Use a coarse, gravely planting mix.

What can I plant in my Hypertufa?

Dwarf plants and shrubs are great to plant in a hypertufa. Small ground cover sedums and other succulents like hens and chicks are especially well suited for these fun container gardens. You’ll find lots of great choices of plant material to fill your hypertufa at Viette’s. You can even add miniature artifacts to your hypertufa. Andre’s was created as a “fairy garden” with a little house and garden fence added among the plants. As your hypertufa ages, it will gain character with moss and even sometimes lichen growing on the sides.

12 Unique hypertufa projects for the garden

Hypertufa Project Design file

Hypertufa is a lightweight cement mix that makes it simple to make your own plant containers and projects. Once you begin, you’ll find more and more ideas to do the dress up the garden and the best thing about this hypertufa is that they begin to age and look very rustic and natural in the garden. See these fabulous ideas and learn a few tips to make your own.

Ideas, from simple to sensational!

Jenny Alexander’s hypertufa trough fairy garden

Jenny made her trough in a plastic tub, you know, like a dishpan or maybe a hospital wash tub that you always get. You pack in the hypertufa mix about two inches thick and let the whole thing dry overnight. Unmold carefully the next day and let it cure for a week before planting. This containers will be much lighter than cement!

Anna Zakaria shows three variations of hypertufa planters. She uses tiles, keys and unusual edge effects

Anna says, “My handmade hypertufa planters. I experimented with some embellishments and acrylic paints. I used easily found molds, the 4” plastic pots, a shoebox, and a planter from the dollar store. Playing with mud is fun!

The basics of hypertufa

Hypertufa is a mix of equal parts Portland cement, perlite and sphagnum moss. Use a 1 quart container to measure and mix everything in a galvanized plastic tub. For molds, start with inexpensive container from the Dollar Store.

For complete instructions see, Make your own cement planters Then graduate to leafcastings, birdhouses, variations in shapes and sizes and more!

Anna Zakaria experiments with hypertufa containers

Anna tells us, “More variations. You can see some of the molds in the background. Anything made out of plastic will do, and can be reused many times as molds. Just simple inexpensive acrylic paints. I haven’t tried the concrete color, but I’ve been soaking some pieces in used coffee grinds.

Sue Langley’s bowl, just unmolded

This is one of my favorites! Once I tried several small troughs, I made this large one. I lined it with the dry cleaning bag and after a couple days it slips right out. See the texture from the crumbled bag?

Finished hypertufa bowl made from a bowl! Now planted with Ghost plant, a succulent

“Here’s the unmolded hypertufa finished and planted. I love it! I had wanted to make something bigger this time to display on a log stump and my friend happened to bring this plant pot which I used as the mold.

When you create with hypertufa, you have some leftover each session. Time to make mushrooms!

Kathy Hardin’s hypertufa toadstool

Kathy Hardin, says This mushroom is also hypertufa…… so cute in the garden..”

Imagination run wild!

*Some of these are advanced projects that take some skill, so if you’re a beginner or want to try your first project, see the links at the end of this article.

Joan Meyers’s succulent topped hypertufa birdhouse. She says, ” My ‘Mud Pie Pot’ Birdhouse with succulent roof.”

Joan Meyers’s molded wheelbarrow from hypertufa mix…she says, “My favorite project!”

Kandy Jones says, ” This hypertufa planter was made applying ‘tufa to a Styrofoam ice chest.”

Kandy Jones’ hypertufa fountains

Kandy Jones says, “These are hypertufa fountains I made using a beach ball and half of a fan cage on the big one and a deli tray top and candy container on the smaller one) Birds love ’em!”

Karen Zakaria’s spherical hypertufa planter

Karen Zakaria tells us, “These are a couple hypertufa pieces I made using deflated schoolyard balls (remnants from my son’s grade school days–sigh, he’ll be a teenager in a few days). I cut a hole in the ball about 4″ in diameter. The mix was about 4 cups each: Portland cement, peat moss and perlite; and just enough water to keep the mix together.”

“I pressed the mix into the interior of the ball, then folded part of the ball in and over the lip. To keep the folded part in place, I inserted a plastic cup, weighed down by gravel. After about a week I cut the ball away from the cement, drilled a drain hole and let it sit in the shade for a couple more weeks before adding plants.”

My son is into basketball now so I can’t touch the basketballs yet; he does have quite a few tennis balls….hmmmm…”

Leaf castings!

This is really an easy project once you find your leaf! See Leafcasting the rhubarb leaf to see my first try!

Carrie Cervantes’s rusty colored leaf casting from hypertufa

Carrie Cervantes tells about her rhubarb leaf with terracotta coloring in it. She says, ” this was fun to make…made a bunch of them for my sisters and nieces.
I made a hill out in my garden of dirt and shaped it like I wanted the bowl to be shaped; covered that mound with a plastic bag and then laid my leaf on top of that. Then packed the top of the leaf with the Quikcrete added a short pvc pipe for the base of the leaf that would then be buried underground. Waited overnight and flipped it over and peeled off the leaf. Sometimes you have to use a coarse brush to get the leaf out but the result is great and if stored carefully they last for years.”

Jill Waltenspiel’s hypertufa leafcastings. These are more fun than you can believe!

More hypertufa tips!

The hypertufa troughs in the finishing stage

My friend, Cheryl, and I are making hypertufa again! Here is our work table after our last ‘play day.’ Tractor Man says all he hears is cackling out there on days like this! Yes, it loads of fun and I’ll be unmolding these later today. FUN! As usual we used our leftover mix to make tiny mushrooms!

Me and several hypertufa projects!

Sue Langley’s finished hypertufa troughs

“Here are all my hypertufa troughs filled with sedums and other succulents,…just planted the two rectangular ones. I’ll place them along my paths, maybe in the rock garden,…or just leave them here. ~~ Sue

Make your own cement planters

Leafcasting the rhubarb leaf

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Hypertufa pots are a fun DIY project for the garden.

The great thing about these planters is that the hypertufa is so much lighter than you would think by just glancing at them. So you get the look of stone without the weight of stone.

And they are perfect for your succulent gardens!

How To Make Hypertufa Planters

Supplies:

  • Portland Cement
  • Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • Perlite or Vermiculite
  • Water
  • Non-Stick Cooking Spray (ie, Pam or generic equivalent)
  • Large bucket or trough to mix your ingredients in
  • Various plastic or cardboard containers to use as molds
  • Rubber gloves
  • Particle mask
  • Safety glasses

Perlite and sphagnum peat moss can be found in the gardening section for approximately $5 a piece and bags of Portland cement can be purchased from the construction area of Home Depot.

You do need Portland cement and not the quick drying cement for this recipe. Don’t let the Quikrete name confuse you though.

Quikrete happens to make this Portland cement, although they do make the quick setting version of cement also. Just look for the Portland title (which has nothing to do with Portland, Oregon, BTW).

Instructions For Hypertufa Pots:

Gather some containers that you want to put the hypertufa into. You’ll need an outer container and an inner container and the mixture will go between the two containers.

Some hypertufa mold ideas are two bowls of different sizes nested in one another,

milk cartons, juice containers and fast food beverage cups.

Even two boxes of different sizes can be used and are a great way to make trough type planters.

Spray the sides of the containers with cooking spray, so that the molds will slide out easily later. If you are going to use the cardboard boxes, use garbage bags to line them, so the moisture doesn’t make the cardboard all mushy.

Get your containers ready and set to go before you start mixing the hypertufa. The containers must nest in each other, leaving at least 1/2 inch between the sides.

Don your particle mask, gloves and safety glasses and mix up your hypertufa.

Hypertufa Recipe

  • 1 part Portland Cement
  • 1 part Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • 1 part Perlite or Vermiculite
  • 1 part Water (approx.)

This is a messy project. Please wear appropriate clothing and use items for mixing that you do not want to use again.

And please don’t forget to wear a mask and gloves! You don’t want to inhale cement unless you want rock hard lungs. And cement can be very caustic to your skin. I forgot my safety glasses, so I just shut my eyes while scooping out the dry cement, but I’m pretty sure that’s about the same as closing your eyes while you’re welding on the sun (I do not recommend the closing-the-eyes-method, just trying to be transparent in my stupidity/forgetfulness here).

I used a plastic cup I had on hand to scoop out about 8 cups each of the cement, peat moss and perlite into my large bucket for mixing. I then added enough water to make a cottage cheese like consistency (it won’t be an exact 1 part ratio, but probably close). I would suggest adding the water slowly so you do not add too much though.

Now, I had planned on showing a ton of photos doing all these steps, but my gloved hands were wet with cement and I didn’t want to get my camera all gritty. So I am attaching a Youtube video from Lowes on how to make them which will give you a visual of how to mix it up.

When it’s all nice and mixed together, press the mixture into the bottom of the outer container to a depth of about 1″ (this will make the bottom), put the inner container on top of that and press more mixture into the sides.

Wrap your items in a large plastic garbage bag and learn how to be patient.

Concrete needs to dry slowly, so keep it in the bag for roughly 24 hours. After 24 hours you can check and see if it’s setting up. If so, you can remove the molds and let the piece air dry for a few more days (don’t forget to wear your gloves for this step).

I found it took mine at least 4 days to completely and thoroughly dry.

If you want the top rim of your hypertufa pot to be smooth, make sure you fill it to the very top and level it off with a ruler when filling the container.

I was going for a more rustic look for mine, so I did not fill the container completely nor did I level it off.

I also made a hypertufa sphere using a child’s play ball.

I partially filled a bucket with sand and placed my ball on top of the sand. The sand allows the ball to hold its shape and not have a huge flat spot on the bottom from the weight of the hypertufa.

Then I cut a small hole in the top of the ball and filled it up with the hypertufa mix. I peeled the ball away when it had set up, which was approximately 48 hours later.

I also tried to do a hand with the stuff, using a rubber glove as a form.

I lost a few fingers though. They popped off when I was cutting the glove off.

UPDATE: Since this post first appeared, I have successfully created a hand! OK, that vaguely sounds like something Dr. Frankenstein would say, but you can see it on this post – HERE.

So if you want the look of a cement planter try your hand at hypertufa. It’s cement without all the weight!

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    Your best online hypertufa manual

    Are you looking to perk up your garden? Learn how to use hypertufa molds to create your own pots, planters and other garden ornaments. You’ll watch and see your family and friends view your work and have them pleasantly surprised with your beautiful, outstanding, homemade creations.

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    • Learn how to avoid the single biggest mistake most “newbies” make when mixing hypertufa ingredients.
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    • What’s a way to save your back when mixing up larger recipe amounts?
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